Myanmar army clears itself of atrocity charges

The Myanmar army has investigated itself and found it has no connection with burned out Rohingya villages like this one near Maungdaw, northern Rakhine state and photographed Saturday. (Reuters photo)

The Myanmar army has released the results of an internal investigation in which it exonerates itself of blame regarding the Rohingya crisis.

The report, which was posted to Facebook, denies that the tatmadaw killed any Rohingya people, burned any villages, raped any women or girls, or stole any Rohingya possessions.

Despite eyewitness reports, it blamed every report of fires, village destruction, shooting, rapes and theft on "terrorists from the Bengali community", the phrase used to describe Rohingya, which is a banned word. "The terrorists instructed the (hundreds of thousands of Rohingya) to flee, and they did so because they feared the terrorists".

The reference is to the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (Arsa), a small group which says its aims are to "defend, salvage and protect" the Rohingya people. Arsa launched coordinated raids on government army and police posts on Aug 25, triggering massive retaliation and sparking an almost total evacuation of Myanmar by more than 700,000 Rohingya refugees.

The Facebook post claims that the exculpatory report was written after the army had "interviewed thousands of villagers" who support the conclusions in the report.

The United Nations has labelled the army's behaviour towards Rohingya as "a textbook example of ethnic cleansing". Amnesty International, which is preparing a major historical document on Myanmar's policy, called the investigation a "whitewash".

And on Monday, Myanmar's army confirmed it has transferred the general in charge of Rakhine state to an inactive post.

No reason was given why Maj Gen Maung Maung Soe was transferred from his post as the head of Western Command in Rakhine, where Myanmar's military, known as the tatmadaw, launched a sweeping counter-insurgency operation in August.

"I don't know the reason why he was transferred," said Maj Gen Aye Lwin, deputy director of the psychological warfare and public relation department at the Ministry of Defence. "He wasn't moved into any position at present, he has been put in reserve."

The move came before the arrival on Wednesday of US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who plans to meet Aung San Suu Kyi, who is the nation's leader although her title is Foreign Minister.

Mr Tillerson is also to meet army chief General Min Aung Hlaing.

The "Tatmadaw True News Information Team" summary of the army report lists 14 summary points taken from the official document written by Lt Gen Aye Win, inspector-general of the Myanmar Defence Services.

The BBC summarised the conclusions that the security forces

  • never shot at "innocent villagers"
  • committed no "sexual violence and rape cases against women"
  • never "arrested, beat (or) killed villagers"
  • did not steal silverware, gold, vehicles or animals from villagers
  • never set fire to a mosque
  • did not "threaten, bully and drive out the villagers", and 
  • never set houses alight

A spokesman for Amnesty International said the military had "made clear it has no intention of ensuring accountability", the BBC reported.

He added: "It's now up to the international community to step up to ensure these appalling abuses do not go unpunished."

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